Final design selected for National Erebus Memorial

The official design for New Zealand's first national memorial for the Erebus tragedy has been selected, after much research and extensive campaigning from the victim's families.

This year marks the 40th anniversary since a sightseeing flight crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board.

While there are several memorials around the country and in Antarctica, there hasn't been a national memorial until now. It is the first bearing the each name of the victims.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled the design titled 'Te Paerangi Ataata - Sky Song' on Friday and explained its importance.

"The design reflects the enormity of the tragedy and provides a strong sense of connection and loss," she told media at the announcement in the Parnell Rose Gardens, the site of the future memorial.

"The design has a strong narrative to engage visitors and provides a sanctuary within its walls, evoking the great emptiness experienced for those who lost their lives."

Concept art of the proposed National Erebus Memorial, showing a walkway looking towards the horizon.
A walkway will overlook Judges Bay. Photo credit: Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Supplied

It was jointly designed by Wellington firm Studio Pacific Architecture, Kiwi artist Jason O'Hara and musician Warren Maxwell. Both Maxwell and O'Hara have strong connections with Antarctica, visiting the continent to create their art.

The design includes cut-outs of 257 stainless steel snowflakes, which will be given to the families of the victims as a "symbolic keepsake", Ardern said.

"The design was chosen after feedback from family members of those who died, those who worked on the recovery operation and in consultation with Auckland Council."

In the proposal, the designers describe 'Te Paerangi Ataata - Sky Song' as a journey, with a walkway towards the horizon over Judges Bay.

"We look to the sky, and that sky is connected to the sky over Antarctica. The families waited and looked out to the sky, the lost departed into the sky, and their adventure was in the sky," they wrote.

A stainless steel cut-out snowflake to represent a victim of the Erebus disaster, held in cupped hands.
Cut-out snowflakes will be gifted to the families of the victims. Photo credit: Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Supplied

It aims to honour "future and past, adventure and tragedy".

"The movement out to the horizon, openness, and the sky represents the journey and adventurous spirit of the crew and passengers towards the unknown and the future: a celebration of life.

"The movement back to the land reveals the reverse face of the Ice Wall and presents the names of those who lost their lives in the tragic event."

While it was originally hoped the memorial would be ready in time for the official commemorations this year, delays mean the unveiling won't be ready until May 2020.

It's been a long road for the families of the Erebus victims. Many are in their 70s and 80s, and this is likely be one of the last major anniversaries they will be able to attend.

Concept art of the Erebus National Memorial.
The memorial will contain all the names of the victims. Photo credit: Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Supplied

David Allan, who lost his father in the crash, spent years campaigning for a national memorial in time for the 40th anniversary.

"There's a satisfaction in being able to have a moment to reflect in front of something like that," he told Newshub in 2017.

"We can always learn from these things and I think that's possibly the most important thing, aside from the human comfort."

The installation and maintenance of the memorial is being funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, according to its website.